When Bigger Is Better

Some people, including many connoisseurs more expert than I, hold the opinion that French wine is the most superior in the world --witness the astronomical $1,000 plus price per bottle for Grand Cru Bordeaux. But, while I appreciate the finesse and complexity of French Bordeaux and Rhone blends, I learned to love wine by drinking our California reds such as Napa Cabs, Russian River Pinots, Paso Robles Rhone Rangers, Santa Barbara Pinots and Syrahs.
IMHO, Old World French wine tends to be softer and earthier, whereas New World wines encompass a wider range of flavor and structure profiles and tend to be bolder. They can be "hot"--over 14% alcohol--and fruit-forward, with firm tannins--wines that make a confident statement, without going over the top. I will declare, (I assume the persona of Mae West when I say this): I like my red wine like I like my men--big, bold and hot!
Three Wines The other evening, I made pasta all'uovo from scratch and a fully flavored marinara sauce with handfuls of fresh herbs from my garden and half a head of garlic. We needed a hearty red wine to pair with this meal, so we sampled three wines from the Touring & Tasting cellar: the 2008 Eberle Cote-du-Robles from Paso Robles, the 2007 Pietra Santa Zinfandel from the Cienega Valley 25 miles east of Monterey Bay, and the Argentinian 2010 Tinto Negro Malbec.
The Eberle Cote-du-Robles is the equivalent of the cultured, educated man who will wow you with his depth and intensity. He has tales to tell and universes to open to you. Be mesmerized as you enjoy a long, leisurely dinner of foods slow cooked with many flavors, like meat braised in wine or vegetable tagine spiced with curry. Slowly savor each delicious sip.
Malbec can be so tannic that it's like a mouthful of vine; but not the Tinto Negro Malbec--it is rich with fruit. The tasting notes for this wine says: "Surprising light for a Malbec, this wine is approachable and delicious". But, make no mistake, this is not a light wine. It is a muscular, proud Argentinian with flashing eyes that dare you to live life to the fullest. This Malbec will grip you with strong arms and whirl you around the dance floor with fearless tenderness. Serve with grilled steak--preferably on the wild, grassy hills of the Argentinian Pampas.
Zinfandel was long considered "America's vine and wine", a true American product. Zinfandel has concentrated flavors because the grapes ripen unevenly and are often berry selected for this reason. The "old vine" Zins have very low yields, leading to more extraction.  Because the fruit ripens fairly early and produces juice with high sugar levels, the alcohol content is often over 14%, sometimes over 15%. I love it because the deep fruit flavors of berries and plum are complemented with spicy and peppery notes. Zinfandel is like my California man, big, tall and self-assured. I see him golden from the sun, like a luscious grape ripened to perfection. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty with hard work, but the same strong hands have the gentleness to harvest a cornucopia of pleasures from the fertile soil. The Pietra Santa Zinfandel , handcrafted from estate grapes cultivated to express the land, was the perfect pairing for a meal made from a Southern California kitchen garden.

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